I Used My Chronic Illness as Inspiration for my Art
By Abi Stevens
I have had issues with Migraine on and off since I was a teenager and both my parents have had problems with it too. My migraine attacks gradually became more frequent when I was in my 20s, particularly during summer, interfering with my ability to hold down a job and work on my illustration aspirations.
When the migraines became even more severe, I was working as a TA in a Special Needs school and had just been through an especially stressful year on the job.
My daily symptoms had been gradually getting worse for a while but I'd dismissed them as stress and lack of sleep.
Then one spring day, I experienced a sudden and severe migraine attack, which blew all my previous experiences out of the water. It remains one of the scariest experiences I've had: unbearable sound sensitivity, light sensitivity, not being able to think clearly and unable to answer questions from concerned colleagues who wanted to help.
I was so distressed I ended up banging my head on the table in front of me to distract myself from the pain.
The attack remained at this level for over two hours before subsiding enough for me to be able to talk to people and be driven home and go to bed, but it was the start of a months-long period where I was mostly bedridden with migraine attacks and daily debilitating symptoms.
Eventually, I managed to get some more effective treatment and I decided to leave my full-time job in order to focus on my health, as well providing the opportunity to focus on my artwork.
Following the advancement of chronic illness, I was inspired to start sharing more of personal experiences in my artwork.
I started by creating self-portrait illustrations representing symptoms of chronic migraine and was surprised and touched by the response I recieved to the work online from people who said my art made them feel seen and understood.
I found myself tuning into an online network of other Spoonies on Instagram and found support, understanding, and strength in return from them.
It was a cathartic and healing experience and I have found new purpose in creating art that can help Spoonies from all walks of life feel connected and inspired. The artwork also advocates for chronic illness by increasing the visibility of these issues.
Now, I am creating a series of pins for the chronically ill, so that they can feel seen and to enable open dialogue with able-bodied people. These new designs were also inspired by the close bond I have with my chronically ill sister.
They include designs saying:
“Fatigued and Fabulous”
To see more of my artwork visit: http://abistevens.com/
To support my latest campaign and snag one of these pins visit: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/abistevens/spoonie-pins
Follow Abi on IG: @abistevens_illustration
And Twitter: @AbiStevens_Art